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Black opts in the backwaters: in dark or stained waters, it's all about Strong silhouette to attract attention.

Backwater creeks and bays can present a special set of problems to Florida fly fishers--particularly in the fall, when there's been a lot of runoff from summer rains. The water in these places is dark, very dark. I've been lashing the chocolate water for about 30 years and have discovered a strategic element for getting my flies seen.

You'd think contrasting colors would be the most effect patterns, white perhaps the most obvious component in such a fly pattern. Maybe not so. Look over the side of the skiff: White and otherwise bright tones don't really seem to be very visible, especially under low light conditions in tannic backwaters. In many circumstances, the silhouette against the dark surrounding water is best amplified by dark-bodied flies and vital for the best exposure of your fly.

Canals and brown water feeder streams are the places to soak your black flies. Tarpon and snook anglers have created a goodly number of these black fly patterns for just such situations. The tannic water often stains the forage in this habitat. Shrimp and crabs are very dark in these places.

Black and other dark patterns are favored color schemes when night fishing as well; must be something about that strong silhouette that gets 'em going.

It's easy and inexpensive to convert some of your favorite pattern to shadow warriors. Add some black yarn, any old dark hackles and little or no flash. If you decide to tie up a batch, start with simple unweight models. Add bead chain as required and lead eyes for a deep runners. An intermediate sink line will cover the basics. Short mono leaders, 5 to 7 feet, are adequate. Remember you're fishing in dirty water. Deeper creeks might be better served with a tad more leader. Use fluorocarbon if it gives you more confidence (helps keep the high-end suppliers in business!). Besides, you might end up on a clear-water flat and not want to change up to a new leader.

Slow presentations are a good place to start; count down cast-and-retrieves will give you a good report on where the strike zone is. If you get a pick and miss, continue to strip and you may get a return.

Most saltwater flies are fished like streamers which require a stripping retrieve to initiate a strike. There are situations where saltwater flies can be presented taking advantage of the tidal flow in passes, feeder creeks and around oyster bars and other structures, but generally you'll have to use a stripping retrieve. Of course, some patterns imitate forage that doesn't move quickly. Some crabs and shrimp are best fished bumping or hopped along the bottom.

Here's one example from my black-fly collection, a "keep it simple" kind of pattern. These flies use pulsating marabou feathers bought at Jo-Ann Fabrics, inexpensive and very functional, a whole bag about two bucks. Use what you've got, but keep that silhouette strong.

1. Mustad 3407 DT, O' Shaughnessy Ringed Duratin hook.

2. Black thread if you've got it. Otherwise don't worry. Or, stain the thread with a magic marker.

3. A touch of flash is always good. Gold is preferred for tannin (leaf) stained water, crystal flash is just fine.

4. Body material. Lots of options: black yarn, icicle chenille, just so it's black and enhances the silhouette.

5. Eyes are always good. Use bead chain for weighted versions.

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Author:Kowalyk, Ron
Publication:Florida Sportsman
Date:Oct 1, 2015
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